Mississippi State tight end Marcus Green (32) celebrates his touchdown with Rufus Warren. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
It takes big plays during the course of a football game to pull off big victories in the Southeastern Conference.
On Saturday at Davis Wade Stadium, the Mississippi State Bulldogs made several such plays in defeating the Auburn Tigers 28-10. It was the first win in an SEC opener for the Bulldogs since a 17-0 decision over South Carolina in 1999.
Whether it was interceptions by Johnthan Banks, touchdown throws by Tyler Russell or scoring receptions by Marcus Green and Chad Bumphis, MSU found a way to put separation between itself and its SEC Western Division rival.
"Everything was great," said Banks, a former East Webster High School player. "We played as a team, not just on the individual level. We also played lights-out on defense."
The Bulldogs improved their record to 2-0, while the Tigers slipped to 0-2.
By winning the first conference game of the season, MSU stands tied for the lead in the SEC West and coach Dan Mullen is proud of that fact.
"It feels great," Mullen said. "We've talked since I've been here, and I know everybody thought I was crazy, about how we were going to come here and compete for SEC championships. I talked about the road we have to take to do that. You have to win your home games.
"You have to win the opener. Both of those happened (Saturday) for us to put us in a position as we move forward in this season."
Auburn struck for the first points with 9:40 left in the second quarter when Cody Parkey kicked a 23-yard field goal, then the Bulldogs answered at the 6:53 mark when Russell found Green for the first of two touchdown passes.
After the 30-yarder for six points, Banks picked off Tigers quarterback Kiehl Frazier for the first time on the following series. Banks took the theft to the end zone, but was called back because he stepped out of bounds.
MSU did not capitalize on the turnover and had a 7-3 lead at halftime.
Auburn took a 10-7 lead when Onterio McCalebb returned the opening kickoff of the second half 100 yards for a touchdown, but State answered right back on its first offensive possession of the half. Russell tossed his second scoring pass of the game to Chad Bumphis for 13 yards at the 11:35 mark of the third quarter.
The Bulldogs padded their lead when Russell and Green hooked up again, this time for 3 yards, with 4:38 left remaining in the third quarter and LaDarius Perkins put the finishing touches on the victory with a 21-yard run with 12:33 left in the game.
Perkins led MSU in the rushing department with 83 yards on 14 carries. The touchdown was his third of the season.
Russell completed 20-of-29 pass attempts for 222 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
"He did a great job mixing it up and getting the ball out of his hands real quick at times," Mullen said. "(He had) a couple of screens to keep them off-balance. When he held the ball, he did a great job of buying some time in the pocket until he could find somebody.
"I'm just proud of the way he played. I thought he had poise throughout the whole game."
The Bulldogs hit the road for the first time in 2012 with an outing against Troy University.
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